During my career as both artist and graphic designer/artist I have had experiences concerning copyright that I would like to pass on to impress upon fellow artists the need to be wary of copyright infringement and the various things that it covers.
Many of us use the Internet for information and inspiration, as we study we may also use it for research. Whilst using your computer there are things to keep in mind.
You may not be aware that fonts ( typefaces ) are generally covered by copyright. They are invented by a person or business to sell. They are someone’s intellectual property. Unless you go to a legal site that supplies free fonts that are both royalty and copyright free, you can not just download fonts to use on your computer for designing something.
Some software is made as Public Domain which means it is for free downloading and use. Most is not. It is created by businesses to make a profit. You can not download it or copy it from someone’s computer or disks to use on your own. This is commonly called software piracy, similar to downloading a movie or music that you haven’t paid for. Some companies such as Microsoft have keys or codes that link back to their company over the internet, it tells them when someone is using an illegal copy of their software. They follow up on this vigorously and will not hesitate in taking someone to court for using an illegally copied version of their software.
Photos may be available to look at on the web but that doesn’t mean you can copy them all and use them for whatever you like. Check to see if they are copyright free, rather than just royalty free before you use them. Photographers like any other business have the right to own their intellectual property so ask and get permission before you use an image.
Text and Editorial
Copying someone else’s text can also be called plagiarism. It is frowned on in schools and universities and can get you failed or even expelled in some cases. In the business world copying text to use is theft of intellectual property and breeches copyright. In some cases you can contact the author and gain permission to reproduce, which I have given to someone in New York in the past concerning one of my blogs. Usually the original writer is given written credit in the reproduced editorial.
Again, art works and designs belong to the creator. For some reason, there are businesses in the world who think they can copy a design, drawing or painting by an artist and use it in their own merchandising or products without gaining permission from the original artist. You need to be aware that just because it’s on the web, it isn’t free to take, copy and use without permission.
I have chosen the five areas to briefly discuss as I have personal experience with each of them. After thirty years in the graphics industry and now five years building my own arts practice, I have encountered copyright infringing concerning each one.
The difficult thing is protecting yourself from becoming a victim of copyright theft of your material. I have also had all the text on the home page for the graphics division of our business copied and used without my permission.
Why it is difficult is firstly, you may not find out your material has been copied. Even if you do, getting it stopped is also nearly impossible unless you have a lot of money for lawyers. In the case of my text being used, I knew who had used it, what for – and still couldn’t stop it or get it retracted.
Your art, designs or other intellectual, property is yours unless you sign it away or state that you are making it freely available. Copyright infringements were, the last time I checked a risk or a fine of $65,000 per offence for individuals and $250,000 per offence for businesses. This is also for users of software or fonts as well as the owner of the computer that downloaded it in the case of computer usage.
The best way I have learnt is to protect yourself as best possible. Put low resolution images on the web that are harder to download and copy. If you can, put a copyright symbol or watermark on your work.
Finally, a thought. We own our designs and creative output. Designers, artists and authors deserve to be remunerated for their efforts. Remember this when you are browsing next, and keep it in mind to prompt you to take steps to protect your valuable efforts.